Kettlebells are cannonball-shaped iron spheres with handles that are lifted in a swinging motion. Developed by the ancient Greeks and perfected by Russian strongmen in the 1700s, kettlebells are a proven way to quickly build balance, strength, flexibility, and endurance. Now we’re in the 21st century and kettlebell training routines and classes are quite popular. Kettlebells are in gyms all over the world but only Master's Fitness has Certified Russian Kettlebell trainers and true Group Coaching right here in Winston-Salem, NC!
Since this workout trend is in such high demand, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) conducted a study to look into the science behind kettlebell routines, analyzing the energy cost and exercise intensity of kettlebell workouts (1). The ACE, along with research experts from the University of Wisconsin’s La Crosse Exercise and Health Program—John Porcari, PhD and Chad Schnettler, M.S.—acquired 10 male and female volunteers aged 29 to 46 years who were experienced in kettlebell training (2).
Workout trends come and go, but kettlebells have been around since the early 1700s and offer twice the results in half the time!
Learn how they are inspiring modern exercise, and what they can do for you.
Before beginning the study, each volunteer performed a maximal exercise test on a treadmill while oxygen consumption and heart rate were monitored. In order to establish a fitness baseline, the subjects were surveyed with regards to their Ratings of Perceived Exertion (RPE) for the treadmill test.
After the fitness baselines were created for each individual, subjects returned to the Human Performance Laboratory on separate days to perform 5-minute kettlebell VO2 maximal snatch test to determine levels of fitness specific to kettlebell workouts. The subjects used 12-, 16-, or 20-kilogram kettlebells—with the assigned weights determined by gender, body weight, fitness level, and experience level—to swing one-handed through their legs and up and over the head in a snatch motion in a particular rhythm while switching to the opposite hand every other minute (3).
The test format was as follows:
Minute One: 8 repetitions at a rate of 1 snatch every 7 seconds
Minute Two: 12 repetitions at a rate of 1 snatch every 5 second
Minute Three: 15 repetitions at a rate of 1 snatch every 4 seconds
Minute Four: 20 repetitions at a rate of 1 snatch every 3 seconds
Minute Five: subjects performed as many repetitions as possible until fatigue
Heart rate (HR) and oxygen consumption (VO2) were measured for each subject during every stage of the test, and peak RPEs and blood lactate level (tested using a finger-prick method) measurements were conducted 3 minutes after the test was completed.
The number of snatches each subject successfully completed during the fifth minute of the kettle bell VO2 max snatch tests determined the number of snatches they would perform during the primary kettlebell tests that were performed on a separate day. As an example, a subject completed 24 snatches during the final minute, the number was divided by 4, so they were required to perform at least 6 snatches during each timed 15-second period of the 20-minute kettlebell workout (4).
Following both tests—the initial maximal exercise test and the 5-minute maximal kettlebell test—were completed, subjects performed a 20-minute kettlebell snatch workout similar to a normal kettlebell routine. After a basic warmup, subjects executed 15 seconds of one-armed snatches first with their dominant hand, then after a 15-second period of rest, performed an additional 15 seconds of snatches with their other hand. This method continued for 20 minutes, and concluded with a 5-minute cool-down period.
Throughout the workout, researchers monitored subjects’ HR levels at 60-second intervals, and a blood lactate test was taken promptly after the completed workout.
During the primary 20-minute workout, the average calorie burn was 272 calories, not including additional calorie burn as a result of anaerobic effort. According to John Porcari, aerobically-burned calorie burn was 13.6 calories per minute with 6.6 calories per minute burned anaerobically as determined by the blood lactate measurements, adding up to a whopping 20.2 calories per minute, an abnormally high caloric burn rate equivalent to running a 6-minute mile (5).
The substantially-high caloric burn of the workout can be attributed to the fact that the kettlebell snatch workout is an intense, total-body movement conducted very quickly in an interval-training format. Chad Schnettler says, “We knew it would be extremely intense. It’s a quick workout, and you do get a big bang for your buck in a very short amount of time.” (6)
The substantially-high caloric burn of the workout can be attributed to the fact that the kettlebell snatch workout is an intense, total-body movement.
The Heart Rate data showed that the average HR during the workout was between 86 and 99 percent of the kettlebell HR max for all subjects. “Anytime you’re using that much muscle effort, it’s going to be a vigorous workout,” says Porcari (7).
Kettlebells provide a powerful and effective workout that is a much higher-intensity routine than standard weight-training workouts. Additionally, the kettlebell snatch workout improves aerobic capacity, which is excellent for people looking for an exceptional resistance-training workout that will help them lose weight, especially for those who need to fit in an incredible workout in a tight schedule.
(1) Mark Anders; Carl Foster, PhD; John Porcari, PhD; and Chad Schnettler, M.S.
“Kettlebells: Twice the results in half the time?” ACE Fitness Matters, January/February 2010, 6.
(2) Anders, et al. ACE FitnessMatters, 6.
(3-6) Anders, et al. ACE FitnessMatters, 7.
(7) Anders, et al. ACE FitnessMatters, 16.